When does a brand lose authenticity?

For some time I have been thinking about the following equation and asking myself, does it hold true?

increase business size = lost authenticity

Recently Suzy attended the VidCon industry event, which is held in LA each year. Around 30,000 people attend and this is pretty much the largest industry YouTube event in the world. As a point of interest, YouTube is owned by Google, and the reasons Suzy was there on AJ Financial Planning’s behalf was to get some insights on the latest trends in media and marketing, market insights, and new investment ideas in areas of growth.

With YouTube attracting around two billion views per day, there are a lot of eyeballs interested in this streaming platform.

Whenever we get boots on the ground to track down new ideas and insights from time to time, I particularly like to look at side issues or missions that relate more to business, and where things are at and where they are headed in specific areas. In the past we haven’t reported on the information gathered, but this time I want to share some of the interesting aspects of our findings as something a little bit different from our normal market and finance information.

I told Suzy that my particular interest was in a business located in sunny LA in the coastal town of Costa Mesa, which is close to Huntington Beach. It’s a small jiujitsu academy called Art of Jui jitsu (AOJ). You might ask what does jiujitsu have to do with financial planning and taking care of my investments? Fair question. Well, for me it was more how AOJ is being run. The building where it’s located is classic 1950s architecture, which I have a soft spot for, and a unique selection for a business premises. The business’s branding is refreshing and clean, the studio fitout unique and simple, with wellselected artwork. In reality, this was no ordinary dojo. We were interested to see if these themes could be extended to other businesses, and how the elements had come together.

Now Suzy just made a simple call to the AOJ operation and indicated that she wanted to drop by just to see the place from an architectural and design perspective. She mentioned that she had come all the way from Australia and the person she spoke to sounded happy and surprised. They were also very welcoming. I refer to this as a test of the Aloha spirit of a business, a term from Hawaiian culture.

Upon Suzy’s arrival there was a small team of staff who warmly greeted her. Suzy noticed that the design of the dojo is influenced by feminine energy, with a white design that is unusual in what is generally a masculine environment. It was welcoming and had a unique twist, blending both feminine and masculine energy within the environment.

Now, a normal, oldschool type of entrepreneur would try to franchise this idea, or scale it up around the US and the rest of the world to make millions!

Thus comes the question: by doing so, would you lose the magic of this experience and would the authenticity be diluted with scale? Would this business’s Aloha spirit be lost each time it was duplicated?

We know that a copy of a copy is never as good as the original. If you have thousands of people running these facsimile businesses but with different agendas, at what point does it get too difficult to get everybody on the same page? After all, a great concept can only take you so far.

More importantly, though, is it okay for this business to just be as it is and not become a massive empire?

The authenticity of a company transcends not just the fluffy stuff people see in the media; it is the fabric of the company and at some point, I wonder if growth will cause cracks in its structure?

So for any budding entrepreneurs thinking about growing their business exponentially, I wonder at what point does the successful formula start to break down or does it ever break down?

As for Suzy and her experiences at VidCon, stay tuned! We will have more on her insights on this and possible investment opportunities too!